We don’t get a lot of negative feedback here at Big Lens Fast Shutter, and when you filter out the emails that complain about our tendency to drop F-bombs in the podcast, we get almost none. But the negative feedback always involves the combination of photographers thinking that their work is somehow above our criticism, with a side order of “You guys get off on putting other people down.”
A while back I wrote a post explaining how Flickr/Facebook/photography fora can be detrimental. They can be great for networking and learning tips and sharing ideas, but can also seriously warp peoples’ perceptions of how good their work is. We see it every day in the BLFS group on Flickr when new photos come into the group pool. Both Ryu and I look at every picture added and invite certain ones to You Win, Podium, and Training Ground. It’s mystifying when we go to invite pictures to Training Ground and see a stack of favorites and comments that throw around every superlative in the dictionary. This might make your ego swell, but considering the pictures, it’s counterproductive.
No, Ryu and I aren’t the only ones qualified to critique your pictures, period. Everyone is of course entitled to their opinion and to speak it openly, but it doesn’t mean it’s going to help you become a better photographer. The opinion of your Flickr friend who has never shot with anything other than his kids with his iPhone might be nice to hear, but chances are he doesn’t understand that you blew the exposure, didn’t blur out the background because your f-stop was too high, and missed the peak of the action by half a second. He might just like the specific team, the sport, sports in general, the fact that you were able to shoot a sporting event, or just wants you to click like on a picture of his kids. The odds that you know someone who is a picture editor, or a professional sports photographer who has been subject to the decisions of picture editors, is vanishingly small. Ryu and I have been there and are trying everything we can think of to pass along this hard-won knowledge to as many people as we can, for free I might add. There are plenty of sports photography fora and Flickr groups where you can dump as many pictures as you’d like, but BLFS is not that. Putting pictures in our Flickr group makes them fair game for us to direct you to add them to Training Ground, that’s integral to our mission.
Caption: “While the season may be over for the Giants, the postseason play is just beginning. This is from a game I attended back in August and this evening I’ll be over at O.co Coliseum attending the first game of the ALDS between the Oakland Athletics and Detroit Tigers. Unfortunately, I’ll be up in the third deck and not close enough to get great shots like this, when I was in only the third row.”
I replied, quoting the part about it being a great picture, and asking Douglas if he read/participated/listened/ to BLFS or was just using our group pool as just another one of the 76(!) groups where he added the picture. Rather than getting a response, I later saw that he 1) deleted my comment, 2) removed the picture (and all of his other pictures) from the pool, and 3) quit the group. Cool tantrum, bro. Notice that if you go to the picture now, someone left a positive comment that our pal Doug didn’t delete.
All of this because he didn’t like my (unstated) implication that this isn’t a great picture? Really? Given that MLB games have ~150 pitches per team per game, and there are ~2,500 MLB games per season, that’s 375,000 chances to make an almost identical picture. So it’s safe to say that this isn’t rare. It’s from too high an elevation, an awkward angle, doesn’t come anywhere close to sufficiently blurring out the background, is under exposed for skin tone, and is simply not interesting on any level. Anyone viewing this picture gets the message that Doug went to a Giants game at AT&T Park, managed to bring in a DSLR, and had seats pretty close to the field. That’s all. There’s no creativity, no thought, no athletic ability or emotion on display, no interesting lighting, nothing. It’s at best a test picture to judge exposure and depth of field that should have been deleted in-camera. Yet not only does Doug judge it to be “great”, he feels so strongly about it that he deleted my comment marginally questioning its greatness. Not a good show, Doug, but you’re welcome back anytime if/when you decide you want to get better, rather than just applying escalating superlatives to the same old bad pictures.
I wouldn’t be so firm on this but for the fact that the people who do participate in the group, work hard and take our criticism to heart are making great strides. The people who accuse us of getting off on being dicks are 180 degrees wrong. We enjoy watching the people in our group get better. It’s been nothing but satisfying to watch Ken Reabe Jr, Kenneth Armstrong, Andrew Carlin, and especially Brendan Bank get dramatically better, and we’ve seen other smaller improvements in plenty of other members. We love seeing Bashar, already shooting at a high level, continually challenge himself. This is why we do Big Lens Fast Shutter.
Your ego isn’t helping you. Your friends and family aren’t helping you by “liking” your pictures. Deleting semi-critical comments aren’t helping you. Calling bad pictures great isn’t helping you. You don’t need to get your criticism from us, but you need to at least get it from someone knowledgeable.
And by the way, here’s a great baseball picture:
*Please Read Below*
Big Lens Fast Shutter is funded solely from the pockets of Ryu Voelkel and Matt Cohen. If you think the information we give you about sports photography is making you a better sports photographer and as a result a well balanced human being, please show us your appreciation by supporting us on Patreon and send some of your hard earned dollars/euros/Brixton pounds our way. People who donate will be mentioned on our next show unless you want to remain anonymous. Thank you for supporting us and may the force of sports photography be with you, always.